The New York Knicks are the hottest team in the NBA right now. They are riding a ten game winning streak, and are sitting in the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference as the postseason inches closer and closer. With eight games left on the schedule, New York also has a commanding five game lead in the Atlantic Division, as well.
The Knicks are without Amar’e Stoudemire for the rest of the season, and Tyson Chandler missed ten straight games (the first eight of the winning streak) with a neck injury. Those (and numerous other) injuries have not stopped New York from catching fire late in the season.
There are two reasons as to why the Knicks have played so well lately. The first is J.R. Smith.
Smith has averaged 23.3 points per game over the ten game winning streak, but he has done with extremely efficient shooting nights. For three consecutive games over that stretch, Smith scored 30+ points off the bench. That is the first time since 1990 that a reserve has put forth that kind of offensive production, when Ricky Pierce did it for the Milwaukee Bucks two decades ago.. Smith was rightfully named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week.
“Last run I was on like this was in high school and that was too easy,” Smith said. “But, I got a great cast with ‘Melo and Ray [Felton]. We have so many threats out there. It’s hard to honor each person every game. So depending on who’s got it going, it just so happens it’s my turn.”
The other reason for the Knicks recent resurgence is Carmelo Anthony.
Smith passed the offensive baton to Anthony this week, as ‘Melo has showed the entire league that he is the best overall scorer in the NBA. He’s averaging 28.1 PPG this season, and in New York’s last two contests, has scored 90 points combined. Anthony’s 50 point effort (18-26 FG, no shots in the paint) against the Miami Heat was followed the very next night by an equally sensational performance against the Atlanta Hawks in which he dropped 40 on 17-27 from the field (owned the paint/high-post, 1-2 3PT).
With Anthony and Smith playing like an NBA Jam tandem, no team in the NBA has a shot at cooling the Knicks right now.